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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

Like the headline says: Merry Christmas, everyone!

Yeah... the weather outside is frightful... but we're all here, right? Everyone in a good mood, more or less?

Good.

The above photo is an oldie... from all the way back in 1990... my first Christmas in Japan... in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken.

I was still learning how to use my dad's camera... lent to me by him a few months earlier before I embarked on my own epic journey across the seas to land in the comfy confines of Ohtawara.

I had bought my own little coniferous tree - something that was still alive and in its own pot... and placed it on this table that would eventually hold my goldfish aquarium... that's its blue canopy just below the table... it's unused at this time...

I did my best to turn that little table into a bit of Christmas cheer for myself and for others who didn't have a tree... when they visited... maybe it would cheer them up? I worked with what I had. (That large lamp on the left... I used it when I was reading on the couch... which was every day.)

My maybe girlfriend Ashley was in Thailand or Indonesia with a bunch of female AETs (probably the later)... after she and I had a fight and broke up, it was time to make holiday plans... so she did... and when we got back together again three days later... she had plans and I didn't... I was trying to go somewhere... anywhere... with anyone... because I didn't want to be alone... but... I pretty much was.

I'm not sure exactly where Matthew was... but I do know that he was around for New Year's Eve that year... and he and his boss/pal Mr. Suzuki took me out to the local Ohtawara Shrine... but Christmas... it's a blur.

It didn't stick out much back in 1990... yeah... I think I was alone... no family... friends oot and aboot... but... I think I was actually the first ever AET to spend Christmas vacation IN Japan and IN their hometown.

I'm kidding, of course... but it was cool to have played the martyr... I mean, be a man and tough out the whole loneliness thing.

It sounds so pathetic... but I will have you know that I walked around town that day... saw my Japanese students and their parents, merchants and strangers... and every single person I met greeted me with a smile, a deep bow and an accented "Merry Christmas"... how effing cool was that?!

Some stopped and asked if I was alone this year and if I missed my mama and papa... (Mom and Dad, is what I would say)... and I would smile my stupid smile and bow slightly as I answered "yes"...

They felt sorry for the new gaijin all alone in Japan at what I assumed they knew was an important time of year for me... and many asked me to come for dinner that evening... how magnanimous! I didn't even know who half of them were!

But... whether it was pride, or just wanting to prove I could survive in Japan by myself - I had always had my mother and father around to look after me, and I really wanted to try and be a man for once in my miserable life - so I turned them down... besides, I really didn't want to intrude on THEIR family time.

But... it was nice, you know... it was the fact that people here were looking out for me... that they actually cared if I lived or died or was happy or sad... that they took the time to care.

And that, my friends, is just one of the many reasons why I write about a country I haven't seen in 20 years.

Merry Christmas one and all.
Andrew Joseph

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